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U-Haul Founder Commits Suicide

October 5, 1999 GMT

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Leonard S. Shoen, who revolutionized the do-it-yourself moving industry by founding U-Haul International Inc., apparently committed suicide by driving his car into a power pole. He was 83.

The Clark County coroner’s office ruled Tuesday that Schoen died from blunt force trauma and that his death was a suicide.

``There is no reason for the accident,″ Metro Police Detective Rick Hart said. ``Nobody else was around. ``They determined that it looked like suicide.″

On Monday’s Shoen’s car left the road for no apparent reason and struck a wooden power pole, police said. Hart said the accident is still under investigation.

Shoen founded U-Haul in 1945 and built it into the most recognized self-moving company in the nation with its signature orange and white trucks.

In 1986, Shoen’s sons _ Joe and Mark _ forced their father into retirement and pushed for control of the parent company, Reno-based Amerco Inc.

The move triggered a bitter family feud that ended in a $1.5 billion jury award the company had to pay Leonard Shoen and other ``outsiders.″ A judge later reduced the award to $461 million, and the company then sought bankruptcy protection from the debt.

Since the shakeup at U-Haul, Shoen lived in Las Vegas, where he owned the World Trade Center hotel since 1996. He withdrew his application with the Nevada Gaming Commission for a gaming license in May.

At the age of 29, after serving in the Navy during World War II, Shoen came up with the idea to provide do-it-yourself one-way moving trailers on a nationwide basis.

With an initial investment of $5,000, he and his then-wife Anna Mary Carty started the company at the Carty Ranch in Ridgefield, Wash., where they built the first U-Haul trailers in a milk house in 1945. The company is now based in Phoenix.

His concept for U-Haul was developed out of a need to provide inexpensive means of moving a post-World War II American population that had become migratory, especially to the Western United States, according to the company’s Web site.

The original U-Haul trailers were painted bright orange and rented for $2 a day. By 1949 it was possible to rent U-Haul trailers one way from city to city throughout most of the United States.

Today the company has 14,000 independent dealers and 1,100 company-owned moving centers. It is the leading company in the truck and trailer rental industry and the second-largest self-storage facility operator. U-Haul also is the world’s largest installer of permanent hitches.